Justice Minister Michael Masutha was astounded that one of the applicants for a vacancy in the Durban High Court had not worked with a black counterpart in her 23 years as an advocate.
Masutha made this comment on Thursday as the Judicial Service Commission interviewed Elizabeth Law for one of two vacancies in that court. Seven candidates are being interviewed for the two vacancies.
Law was asked by commissioner Thandi Norman SC on what had been Law’s personal contribution to transformation in the legal profession.
Law said she had mentored five people‚ four of them women and that she had an open door policy for anyone in the bar to discuss matters with her.
Norman‚ however‚ pointed out that the mentoring programme at the bar was compulsory and said her question went beyond that.
“Have you worked with any African females on any matter?” Norman asked.
Law said she had not.
Masutha said something concerned him in Law’s answer.
“Are you telling me in 23 years‚ you have never had an opportunity‚ desire and so on to tag along a junior member of the bar who is African let alone an African woman. Was it a matter of choice that you preferred yourself not to work with those people‚” Masutha asked.
Law said she had not actively gone out and asked people to join her on a case.
“My practice … has largely been a family law practice. I am not certain how many people want to be involved in that. I have not proactively gone out and invited them to join me in cases‚” Law said.
Masutha also remarked that 23 years down the line‚ Law had not acquired silk status.
Law said her reasons were partially altruistic and partly selfish.
She said for altruistic reasons‚ she felt that if she were to take silk‚ this would put her services beyond reach of people who needed them.
Law said she also did it for selfish reasons because if she took silk‚ she would price herself out of the middle class people who used her services.
Law has had acting stints in the Pietermaritzburg and Durban high courts where she spent 23 weeks.
She described the workload as heavy.
Law said she was ready for appointment to the KwaZulu-Natal bench because she found the job very stimulating and challenging.
“I feel I have coped very well with the workload.”
The interviews continue.